Tuesday, May 31, 2011

HACC Dash 5K Results

There have been a lot of hits to this site looking for HACC Dash 5K Results. The race organizers have posted them on HACC York Campus' website here:


Monday, May 30, 2011

"Race" Report: 2011 "9" Mile Tour de Memorials

I had no shortage of Memorial Day Weekend racing opportunities:

  • There was a 5K starting at 11:59pm on Friday Night. I'd had a good 8-mile run that morning, though, in hot and humid conditions and thought that might be overdoing it.

  • There was a 5K starting in Wrightsville that crossed the Susquehanna on Saturday, but I opted for the bike ride instead.

  • There was the MCVET 5K & 10K Sunday morning. I can't say enough about what a good event this was when I ran the 10K in 2009, but I had cat adoption center duty that afternoon, and I thought would make for a rough day.

  • And I saw that this morning (Monday) there was a 5K and 9-mile untimed training run that passed all of York's memorials.
I thought this last option sounded cool. Despite living most of my life in York, including all the time that I've been a runner, I've never really done a race that went through downtown. I've run a lot of 5Ks so far this year, and I'm also stuck in a rut lately in my training as the weather warmed, unable (or unwilling!) to push myself past 8 or 9 miles.

The 9-mile "Tour de Memorials" sounded like just what the doctor ordered. Except that my dislike, to put it politely, of running in hot temperatures is well known, and this was a brutally hot and humid day for a run.

I regretted my machismo within the first two miles. I was taking it easy according to plan, but there's no such thing as easy for me when it's almost 80 degrees at 8:00am. I had my camera phone, and I'd planned to stop and take pictures of the monuments and have a nice tour of the city, but once I got underway my only thought was to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I had completed the course. I really can't think of a single intelligent thought I had the whole time I was out there running.

(This is how I felt at mile 2.)

(This is how I felt at mile 6)

My pace was slow (9.5 miles in 1:36) and I felt close to overheating at times, but I did run the whole time. On a day like this, I'll take it.

I'm an easy grader, but there were some issues with this one. The website claimed both courses were mostly flat. Again, I think race directors and runners (at least this runner) have vastly different definitions of flat. The total elevation change may not have been much, but there was a lot of up and down on the course. (A commenter who ran the 5K said it was not flat, either.) But, the cold (hot?) hard fact is that I don't live in a flat part of the country. Of course, I may feel differently after the Druid Hill race (which sounds like it's supposed to be torturous) a few weeks from now.

Secondly, a snafu along the course, when the fairgrounds was closed where we were supposed to go in, changed the distance and added a half a mile. Really, it was not a big deal. If the change in course had caused a water station to be missed, I would have been much more upset about it on a day like today.

There was a lot to like though, too. Basically, for the same price ($25, which goes toward developing a garden to honor the fallen soldiers of York) as the 5K, there was a challenging, well-marked longer distance run that was a nice tour of York, despite me really failing to appreciate it. Runners had some flexibility; the same bib numbers could be worn for either distance, so you didn't really have to decide which distance you were running until the gun (Which was actually the York Revolution's home run cannon fired by Cannonball Charlie) went off. The t-shirt is nice, and the very, very much appreciated water at the two water stations was ice-cold.

Would I run it again? That's what it always comes down to, right? I'm not sure. Any judgement of this event that I have is going to be clouded by the fact that it took place in weather conditions that, in my opinion, are pretty much the worst possible conditions to run in. If it were 10 degrees cooler, which is more typical for this time of year here, I would probably have had a better time, and I might run this course in the winter to shake up my routine. Race directors are very powerful beings indeed, but they can't control the weather or flatten out a not-so-flat city. The things they could control went generally well. I think I would run it again, but I would probably choose the 5K on a day like this.

(I thought they did a nice job with the race shirt.)

Now excuse me, I'm off to get some iced coffee and a donut.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

(Not) Lance Armstrong Climbing the Alps

I went for a 12-mile bike ride today, and let's just say that Lance Armstrong climbing the Alps I am not.

It was the longest bike ride I've taken since our honeymoon, when my wife and I took an 18-mile ride in the Jamaican Blue Mountains (of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee fame). But, that ride was all downhill. So, this was the longest hilly ride I've taken in about 18 years, since I got my driver's license and my bike was all but forgotten. And I'm going to feel it tomorrow. If you know the number of Floyd Landis' pharmacist, it would be a huge help.

On this warm, humid morning a bike ride was definitely more pleasant than a run would have been. I rode in the same neighborhood where I do most of my running, and I think the uphills are harder on a bike, but the downhills are easier and more fun. My original plan was to do two laps of my normal running course, but since my front brakes are really only for show I decided not attempt some of these steep downhills. Then, since biking proved to be harder than I remembered and my bike does not shift so well anymore, I decided I would stop at 10. At 10 miles, I felt pretty good and decided that finishing out the hour would probably be a good place to stop.

If I decide to do the Catfish Sprint Duathlon on July 10 it's a 1.5 mile run, a 14.5 mile bike ride, and a 3.1 mile run. This was a good start, but there's no way I was going to be able to run a 5K after today's ride. It's certainly feasible, I just need to do a better job of finding time for blood doping riding

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Case of Mediocrity

I really don't care about winning medals as much as my previous posts imply.

Not that it wasn't awesome to win a medal, but I really don't consider myself to be racing against anyone but myself. I have no expectations of awards or prizes and I don't really care about how many other runners I finish ahead of. (Though I admit that I do desperately hope that there were more than 3 people in my age group on Sunday so that my award isn't completely a sham. I do after all, have one last-place medal to my name from a very small 5K.)

I'm out there trying to run the best race I can, and if I can tell myself after crossing the finish line that I've done so, I'm happy with that. My 23:55, bronze medal-winning race on Sunday is my 2nd-fastest 5K ever, but I would rather have run a 23:41 (one second under PR) and finished out of the medals in a bigger field.

Last week, I pulled this quote out of an article about Sammy Wanjiru's victory in the 2010 Chicago marathon:
Sammy Wanjiru has run faster races, he has won more celebrated races, but never has he run a more inspiring race. He proved that even when you are not at 100 percent, you can still give 100 percent of what you have.
I do think I've done this in most of the races I've ever run. Sure, I walked more of the marathon than I wanted, but I was coming off an injury that had cost me my longest training runs. I dogged the Kelly Shamrock 5K on purpose this year because I was tapering. I took the 2008 Orioles Advocates 5K, my first race that year after a bad winter of running, really easy because I knew I was under-trained. I didn't push for my goal time in the Broad St. Run because it was 30 degrees warmer than I anticipated. I've run some 5Ks where I just didn't feel great and was several minutes slower than usual. Still, I think every time I've toed the line, I've run the best race that I could possibly run at the time. I'm satisfied that I've given 100% on race day. This spring it's paid off with three 5Ks in which I did very good or great (by my standards).

The problem, for lack of a better word, is that I know I can be faster. I've always given my best effort on race day. It's the things I haven't done on other days that are the issues. The one place I really feel like I failed in my marathon training was my complete inattention to the speedwork (track workout) portion of the training program. Even before my knee acted up and made it a risk that I didn't feel comfortable taking, I only bothered to attend one of the weekly track workouts. Though I don't really care about how fast I am on marathon day, that track work might have given me a little more endurance to run more of those last four miles. (Instead of pretty much having to alternate running and walking for a few minutes at a time). It would almost certainly lower my 5K times and is probably my only shot at my goal of a sub six-minute mile at Harrisburg.

I've ignored it. I've settled for mediocrity. On one hand, that's ok. This is a hobby. I need to keep it enjoyable (or as enjoyable as possible in the humidity, at least. Ugh!). Adding speedwork will probably take away 1 regular run, and I've had enough trouble getting those in due to a busy work schedule, let alone getting back in a good lifting routine and reacquainting myself with my old bike as I'd planned.

I don't think there's anything wrong with my current approach. I've been unscientific and maybe undisciplined, but I think it's been an honest effort. Running means different things to different people and I think the relaxation and stress relief aspect of it has been more important to me than the competition. With the exception of one summer where all I did was run a 3-mile course over and over again, finishing longer-distance races has generally been more important to me than how fast I got to the finish and my training has reflected that even if I did love to see how fast I could go on race day. This spring I've fallen back in love with the 5K and have been having a good time in my (so far unsuccessful) attempts at new PR and breaking the 23-minute barrier.

I continue with my current approach, I think I probably need to realize that I'm getting very close to the limit of how fast I'll ever be. If I really care about lowering my PRs and taking these lead legs and occasional bronze medal and turning them into gold, then change is needed.

I know I can be faster, but how badly do I want it? I'm not sure that I really know the answer to that question yet, but it's a month and a half before the Harrisburg Mile and I think that's time enough to do some long-overdue experimenting.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pictures from the 2011 HACC Dash 5K, or "I Didn't Feel Like Writing Today"

A few more pictures from the 2011 HACC Dash York Campus 5k:

(The "before" picture)

(Derek, 7th overall in first in our age group, crosses the finish line.)

(Mere nano-seconds later, in an amount of time so small as to not even be measurable without the use of cutting edge instruments developed for NASA, I finish the race.
The famous Sheetz Truck, dispenser of free smoothies, is visible in the background)

(In this, the "after" picture, Derek attempts to pop his shoulder back in and I look to be purging the contents of my stomach. Alternatively, we drink water and discuss how awesome we are.)

Moving on to the awards ceremony...(ooh....aah...)

(I collect my bronze medal for the Men's 30-34 division.
If there were only three people in the division, please don't tell me.)

(Derek collects the first-place medal.)

(I think the medal is nice. It was at a college, after all.)

(It's even engraved on the back. I thought that was really nice. Maybe it's standard procedure? I wouldn't know...I NEVER WIN MEDALS!)
As I said yesterday, I thought this was a really nice race and I hope to run it again next year. (Thanks Laurie for all the race and awards ceremony pictures!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Race Report: 2011 HACC Dash York Campus 5K, or "Hey, I got a Medal!"

I hadn't planned on racing this weekend. I was going to try another longish run on Saturday to see if I could cope with the humidity better than I did on Thursday, and then lift or take a rest day on Sunday.

But, when Derek, a friend from college, sent me a text on Friday to ask if I was running in the HACC 5K on Sunday, I didn't see a reason not to, even though I'd never even heard that there was a HACC 5K on Sunday. It turned out that he'd learned of the race only a short while before I did.

I went out and died in the humidity on Saturday, running a slow 7 miles that left me feeling completely drained and sore, so I had low expectations for the 5K.

Indeed, I didn't even really feel awake when I got down to HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) to register. I figured a 27 or 28 minute race was in order, and I was fine with that. Some days I've got it, some days I don't.

A few minutes before the race we got in line. Derek runs in the low 20-minute range and started near the front. I'm not quite there, and I felt slower than normal, so I moved about halfway back in the field, which I think was about 200 runners.

The gun went off, and I had the weird experience of feeling like I was in slow motion, but also having a seam up the middle of the road and quickly passing a lot of people. My legs, as I'd predicted, felt like lead weights, but when I looked down at Garmin it said I was going 9MPH, way above my pace.

Knowing I couldn't maintain that pace for any time at all, even if Garmin were accurate, I slowed down a bit but still cleared the first mile just under 8 minutes. There was a tough hill early on the course, and it was sneaky-hot, warm but very humid, but the race directors did an awesome job with three water stations on the course (really, it was two, but we passed one of them on the way out and the way back). With the help of two cups of ice-cold water dumped on my head, I held my pace and had passed the mile 2 marker with a time under 16 minutes. As I approached the HACC campus, I thought my PR (23:43) was in reach, but I couldn't quite get get to the finish in time and ended up at 23:55, the second fastest 5K I've ever run and only my 2nd time under 24 minutes in five years of running 5Ks.

As the race director and volunteers posted times, Derek and I quickly saw that he had finished 7th overall, in just over 20 minutes, and had won our age group. But, quite unexpectedly, I took third place in 30-34 year old men's division. Of course, celebratory donuts were consumed. Congrats, Derek, on a great race! (More pictures coming later in the week.)

(The silhouettes of the winner and 3rd place finisher of the men's 30-34 division).

Unexpectedly, this was one of the most fun 5K's I've ever run. The course itself is visually boring, in a corporate park in York that I'm quite familiar with. There's nothing that can be done about that. But, despite the lack of interesting scenery, this race seemed to go by much faster than any other I'd ever run -- it felt like I was only running for about 10 minutes! I think they did a nice job mapping it out so that there were always enough turns that it never felt like I had a long way to go...I'm doing a bad job explaining that, but good job race directors! (The course was mostly an out and back, but there was a loop at the far end that cut into the longest straight stretch about halfway though -- it made the 2nd half of the course feel shorter to me than the first half. Awesome!)

I would have said this was a nice race even if I hadn't run one of my best races ever. The shirts have a cool logo on them; they had a great spread of food at the post-race celebration; the awards and medals were very, very nice (they're appropriately college-themed and have the race date and age group engraved on the back); and best of all, there was a Sheetz truck giving away FREE SMOOTHIES. I love Sheetz.

So, in short, both my expectations for the race and my own performance were surpassed by quite a bit.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Not So Super After All

Over the past several months that I've been writing this blog, I've also enjoyed reading the blogs of other runners. Danny, one of the bloggers who comments here, writes a blog called "The Quest for Running Perfection." His blog, and his approach to running are both more serious and thoughtful than anything you'll find here. He's made a few comments on some of my recent posts that have gotten me thinking about my approach to my training. I'm going to address some of those thoughts in this post and a considerably more serious one that I'll write next week.

My degree is in Psychology, and so the "nature vs. nurture" debate was in the background of almost everything we talked about in my classes on social psych, personalities, and abnormal psychology. So when I chalked up Sammy Wanjiru's success to talent, Danny rightly called me out on it.

A bit chastised, I responded that I didn't mean to imply that Sammy
was only great because of natural ability, or that his dedication and work ethic were not amazing, or his training regimen not among the most rigorous in the world.

But then, he hit me with this:

Or, that Brian could not have run a sub 2:12 marathon if he had put his mind to it at age 12. Really, you could have.
Well, unfortunately, my priorities at age 12 were a bit different. At 12 years old, when world class distance runners are probably already been training rigorously for years (Note: I'm not going to actually look this up for a post that's main purpose is to make fun of myself), I was busy with a rather lackluster basketball career, hiding from bullies (in hindsight, running more would have really helped!), and becoming really, really good at Nintendo.

I will probably never run a sub 3-hour marathon. I might never even run a sub 4 hour marathon. But I bet Meb Keflezighi hasn't beaten all three Super Mario Bros. games and I am almost certain that I could absolutely destroy Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai at "Bases Loaded". And let's not talk about "Contra", in which the fastest of Kenyan runners would only slow me down in my quest to save the world from the vile Red Falcon.

But while all of that was very cool in 7th grade, when running in road races was one of the farthest things from my mind, now that I am a runner with a total of $10 worth of prize money to my name, paid out in the form of a gift card to the Field House Sports Bar, I wish that I'd used my younger years a little more productively.

(Fireballs are banned by the USATF, you cheating lizard.)

I can see now, Bowser, Lord of the Koopas, that although I'd slain you so many times, you have defeated me even so.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

(Please Don't) Bring the Heat

I had one of the least enjoyable runs ever this morning. Eight miles in 1:14, so not a bad distance or pace considering how completely a busy work week and awful weather have destroyed my running this week. It's hard to find time to run when you're busy building an ark.

After missing a run on Tuesday evening when it started deluging (Is that a word? I guess it is!) just as I set out, and not having any opportunity at all yesterday due constant rain all day, I knew this morning was likely my only chance to get some miles in.

On the plus side, a temperature of 59 degrees and overcast. The downside: 95% humidity. It was so wet, and the air so heavy, that I felt like I needed scuba gear.

Whether the humidity or the lack of running this week, my legs just felt dead. Eating more Sports Beans than I've ever eaten before seemed to give me a little energy back, and I drank plenty of water, but I still felt really exhausted and disgusting most of the way through this one.

Unfortunately, I just hate running in the heat and humidity, and getting my distance is going to be a challenge. I'd rather run 15 miles in 40-degree weather (or even 10-degree weather) than 8 miles on a day like today.

About this time last year, I cut my mileage back from three 10 mile runs per week to three 6-7 mile runs per week as the weather got more warm and humid, with the occasional 8 or 9 thrown in if we had a cooler, less humid day or I felt particularly good. My problem this year is that I'm running the full marathon at Philly, instead of the half, on November 20, and I don't think those mileages will cut it.

I should be ok adding most of my distance in September, October, and Early November, but if I want to get in two or three 20 mile runs before the marathon, I'll have to keep my base up. In hindsight, the fall marathon may have been a bad idea, but at least weather at the race itself should be perfect.

That's enough venting. I'm sure I'll get used to it, the weather's been all over the place this year so it wasn't a steady warming up to allow me to slowly acclimate, and I just hadn't had a run this year yet with anything near this level of humidity. But, still, if any readers out there also loathe running in the heat and humidity, I'd love to hear what you've done to make it more bearable.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lesson Learned & Donuts Earned

I ran two good 5Ks this weekend, contrary to my plans. In my pursuit of a PR, I made a big strategic error in going for broke at the Preakness 5K, where the 1.5 miles on the dirt track probably made a PR unrealistic. Running on the racetrack was exhausting -- it was one of the hardest 5K courses I've ever run, and If I'd taken it easy, maybe I would have had a shot at a sub-23 at Bob Potts. On the other hand, it was also one of more unique 5Ks I'd ever heard of, so no regrets.

I'm not sure I'll run another 5K until the Tunnel Run in September, and that's definitely not a PR course, but I still have a good chance at the Harrisburg Jingle Bell Run, where I've run my two fastest 5Ks.

The big, obvious lesson that I'm not sure that I want to learn, though, is that while I gave maximum effort in both races and I might be able to gut out a 22:59 in December, my strategy of just trying to run my regular runs faster isn't the best strategy for actually getting faster. The recommended path I can take toward improving my 5K times, and probably even my long-run pace, would be to add some speedwork (track workouts, intervals, fartleks, etc.) I think I'm going to take a closer look at this in an upcoming post.

The back-to-back races were really fun, and I'm glad I did it. I know plenty of people that participate in a 5k or 8k the day before a half or full marathon, so I while I don't think racing two 5Ks back to back is amazing or super hardcore, it was something I hadn't done before. I'd do it again once or twice a year (maybe these two races again next year) but I won't race the 8k at Virginia Beach the day before the Shamrock Marathon -- that's just crazy!

Through the honor bus 5K in April and these two, I've rediscovered my love of the 5K. Running three miles isn't a challenge anymore -- but running three miles as fast as I freakin' can really is. It's exciting in a way that my regular runs just aren't.

The heat and humidity is finally starting to creep in, which makes running less enjoyable for me. Still, though, my running goal for this summer is try to get my base up to around 15 miles (or more) over the summer, since I'm running the Philly Marathon in November this year instead of the Half. Racing some 5Ks will be a fun distraction, but I probably won't race two on back-to-back days like this again this year.

For my next challenge, I've got three ideas:

The MCVET 5K & 10K
-- I've never run two races in one day before. This would be 9.3 miles total, which is in my comfort zone, but I've never done two races in the same day. If I run them both, then I probably treat this as my regular long run, and take them both at my usual pace. If I decide to only run one of them, then I'll try to break my PR in that distance.

The Dreaded Druid Hills 10K -- "A torturous race by runners for runners through Baltimore's famed Druid Hill Park, beginning and ending at the Moorish Tower and traversing the most wicked hills to be found in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area." Sounds fun, doesn't it?

I heard about this race in 2009, but didn't want it to be my first 10K. (I ran the MCVET 10K, which was the next day, instead). It sounds miserable, but I like the idea of a challenge, and if it lives up to its reputation, I would think it would rate a donut or two.

Catfish Duathlon -- A sprint duathlon in Harrisburg. That would mean I have to get on the bike again, wouldn't it? I'm not adverse to the idea -- I enjoyed my first bike ride in 10 years, but it's hard enough to find time to get my running in lately.

No physical challenges today, on the other hand. A torrential downpour ruined my plans for a run between storm, so I turned to my other hobby, competitive stress-eating, instead.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sammy Wanjiru, 1986-2011

Sammy Wanjiru, a great young Kenyan marathoner, passed away yesterday. He won Olympic gold in the marathon in Beijing in 2008. He won the London Marathon and he finished first in the Chicago Marathon, twice.

If you've been to a race expo and seen t-shirts that said "Kenyan in Training", "In my mind, I'm a Kenyan. In my legs, I'm a chubby white guy", "I run with the Kenyans", or some similar sentiment, well, Sammy Wanjiru is one of the guys those shirts refer to, and even among them he was considered elite.

Amby Burfoot, an editor at Runner's World (and a Boston Marathon champion) called Wanjiru's Olympic race, run in very hot, humid conditions, "the greatest marathon ever".

I had never heard of Sammy Wanjiru until I picked up a copy of Runner's World when we were stuck at BWI on our way to my wife's Disney Princess Half Marathon. At the time, I was struggling with ITBS about a month out from my own marathon, and optimism was hard to come by.

As I sat reading while we waited for our flight, a story about Wanjiru's victory over a great competitor in the 2010 Chicago Marathon -- despite sickness and injury -- gave me some much-needed inspiration , and later provided me with some comfort after the Shamrock Marathon when I hadn't really met my own expectations (Please read the whole article, by Ed Eyestone, available here):

Wanjiru admitted the week before the race that he had missed several days of training due to a stomach virus three weeks earlier. Most of us in the know forecasted that, as 2009's Chicago Marathon champion and course record holder, he would pick up his huge appearance fee, cruise along until the going got tough, then pull the rip cord. When race morning dawned some 20 degrees warmer than normal, it was presumably the final coffin nail for Wanjiru. The hotter the conditions, the more the less-conditioned athlete will suffer.

And then the gun went off.

Against expectations, Wanjiru hung with the leaders until it is just a two-man race and held off one of the favorites with a sprint to the finish.
Sammy Wanjiru has run faster races, he has won more celebrated races, but never has he run a more inspiring race. He proved that even when you are not at 100 percent, you can still give 100 percent of what you have. And he showed that believing in yourself is the most important principle of success.
If you're reading this blog, you probably don't have a fraction of the talent of Sammy Wanjiru. (Edited: see comments) Most runners will never win a race, much less some of the biggest marathons in the world. But, like Sammy, most of us will probably struggle whether it's due to injury, illness, or schedule challenges that have impacted our training. I think the lesson that this story can teach the non-elite runners of the world is that you can still go out and run the best possible race that you can at that moment. Maybe that's a 4:58 marathon. Maybe it's a 7:00 marathon. A one-hour 5k. A jog around the local park.

It doesn't matter. Just give it all you've got.

R.I.P, Sammy.

The quotes above are from Ed Eyestone's excellent article from the March 2011 issue of Runner's World, "Enduring Lessons":

Amby Burfoot's article today, about Sammy Wanjiru, "Wanjiru: A Marathon Star with a Short -- but Blinding -- Arc", from runnersworld.com:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Bob Potts 5K

I ran the 2nd leg of my back-to-back 5Ks, the Bob Potts 5K, today. In short, I've probably never run a race this well that I prepared for this badly:
  • Ate a big dinner of "Irish Nachos", ravioli, two beers and two scoops of Bruster's Birthday Cake ice cream for dessert.
  • Wasn't sure of the starting time of the race as late as 11:00pm last night.
  • Awful night of sleep.
  • Feeling a bit queasy right up until the gun went off.
  • Raced another 5K the day before. (I frequently run the day before a 5K, but had never raced on back-to-back days)
Still, I ran a 24:27, which I believe is my third-best 5K time ever. I guess I decided somewhere between dropping my wallet and phone back at my car after packet pickup that I was going to try for a fast time rather than take it easy.

(Registration was inside the gym. When I was first starting running, I did almost all my running on the indoor track pictured here.)

The race started and ended at the track outside York College's Grumbacher Center, and most of the course was down and back a section of the rail trail. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill on the way out and thus mostly uphill on the way back. At the time, I thought I was on pace for a sub-23 at the halfway point, but in hindsight I think I did the math wrong. A PR was probably within reach up until the last half mile, but I just wasn't quite fast enough today. I'd stopped to tie my shoe early in the race, and that cost me precious seconds, and started a bit too far back at the crowd. There wasn't chip timing and I forgot to stop Garmin right as I crossed the finish line, so I was probably really 10-15 seconds under my official time.

Although I tried to sprint the half lap around the track that ended the race, I didn't have a lot of energy left. Although when another runner sprinted for the finish and tried to pass me within the last 50 yards, I found that I did have enough left to hold them off to hang on to 55th place. I saw out of the corner of my eye that he was probably about 12 years old.

(We're number 55!)

This was a fun, well-organized race. It didn't have the novelty of yesterday's Preakness 5K, and so I think it was taken a little more seriously. The course itself is pleasant, a soft gravel surface for most of the race and the hills are not steep...just steep enough to knock me off pace at the end, but I think someone a bit better prepared would have a good shot of scoring a PR at this race. The biggest challenge is that since it's an out and back on a trail, things get a little tight in the middle of the race, when traffic is going in both directions. It was a nice event, too. The volunteers and staff were all really, really nice and the starter had a good sense of humor. There was a band setting up, probably to be ready for the bulk of the marathon finishers, but I didn't stick around. The price was right, too, at $15 with no shirt. (The shirts were nice, though! You just can't get a shirt if you don't pre-register.)

I will admit that I had a bit of marathon envy, but this is a race I'd run again next year if I don't sign up for the Bob Potts Marathon. So...we'll see how well I'm recovered from my revenge on Shamrock by late April next year.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Preakness 5K, or "The Adventures of Detailed Wednesday"

Today was the first leg of my first ever double-race weekend, the Preakness 5K. Somehow, Chris and I had never heard of it, which is a shame because it was quite fun.

The race was about an hour and 15 minutes from our house। We left in plenty of time, but feared we wouldn't make it because of some mysterious traffic problem just minutes away from Pimlico Racetrack. However, we arrived in time get our numbers and choose how many layers to wear on this cool, rainy morning. The first of many fun things about this race was that, being a horserace-themed race, every runner got a horse-racing type pattern on his/her bib, along with a randomly generated horse name. I was hoping for "Seabiscuit", but instead got "Detailed Wednesday." Really? Detailed Wednesday? That doesn't make any sense.

The next fun thing about this race was that we ran through actual, authentic horse-racing starting gates to begin the race. Chris and I lined up behind the gates, and it this point I made a decision that will likely turn out to be the key strategic error that defines this weekend. I had planned on running either this or Bob Potts in pursuit of a new PR and/or a sub 23-minute 5K (a goal for the year), and since I thought this would be an almost completely flat course and it was a cool morning, I decided that today was the day. I set my Virtual Training Partner on my Garmin to pace myself for 22:59, and off I went at the sound of the gun.

Very early in the race this pace seemed comfortable, and I thought to myself "I got this. I think I can hold this pace." Famous last words. Less than half a mile in, the course veered off the pavement and onto the racetrack itself, which is a 1 and 3/16 mile dirt track that was the equivalent of running on the beach. I heard a runner next to me say "I guess I'm going to re-evaluate my goal pace." Not I. I was still going to push myself for a PR, but over the next grueling (approximately) mile and a half, which was one lap around the course plus bit extra to reach the exit, I found that I was falling farther and farther behind my virtual pal. I was worried about my left ankle, which has some lingering sprain-type injury, as I ran around the sand, but it held up ok. I know enough about horse racing to know that I didn't want to hurt myself while I was on the track.

As we left the track, I was about a tenth of a mile behind my pace, where I would remain the rest of the race. Though it was very nice to be off the dirt, I had pushed myself too hard to have enough speed left to make up the time I'd lost. I finished with a 25:04, a pretty good time for me, but well short of the admittedly aggressive goal I'd set.

(The course ran through this tunnel, which ran beneath the racetrack, near the end of this course. Not fair!)

After my wife, Materialistic Flack, and I had finished the race, we headed over to the finishers tent for our free beer. Well, actually it was Budweiser, but it was much appreciated after a tough race.

This is a great race that we'd never heard of. Cool race shirts or fleece blankets, fee beer, and good live music. The race itself is an interesting challenge. Like the Fort McHenry Tunnel Run, this is a race that I don't think many people will PR at, but it's a fun opportunity to run at a strange and unique location. I will admit that I was kind of in "tunnel vision" mode, and didn't appreciate the crowd support and the fact that you could see some of the race horses at their stables. There were many little details that made this fun -- the race-inspired bibs, horse names, the announcer calling out people's names as if they were jockeys riding their horses ("Here comes Brian ***** on Detailed Wednesday"), free beer, and a good food selection at the finish make this a race I'd definitely consider for someone in the greater Baltimore area.

(One of the hallmarks of a good race.)

(The infield and grandstand of Pimlico)

(Materialistic Flack and Detailed Wednesday.)

Overall, it was a good personal effort at a fun race. I didn't come home with flowers around my head, but I didn't get sent to the glue factory, either.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Negative Splits, System Restore, and More!

Some quick Friday updates, since due to a Blogger outage and a dead computer I haven't been posting:

  • On Wednesday night, I went for a run, and it was awful. Calves hurt, knees hurt, felt like I was having trouble breathing. Hit 5 miles in 50:00, which is well below my usual pace. I got mad at myself, and ran the 2nd 5 miles in 45:23. I didn't know what a negative split was until pretty recently. It's when you run the 2nd half of a race or run faster than the first half. This was a pretty good negative split, in my opinion.

  • When I melted my computer yesterday, I tried a System Restore, which is basically taking your operating system back in time to when it worked properly. Don't you wish real life had a System Restore? I'd love to System Restore back to 1999 and go on that job interview I declined at the time, or earlier this morning when I got a little to mad at the cats, or college. It doesn't work that way, of course. Carpe Diem, you only get one shot, etc. And it doesn't really work for computers, either. Trust me on this, when Windows Update is installing updates, don't turn your computer off no matter how long it takes.

  • On monday I lifted for the first time in 4 months. It only took 4 days to lift again. That's progress, I guess. When I came out of the "weight room", all the cats were clustered by the door. Silly, cats. Doesn't it seem like working out would be abomination to cats? Still, it's been proven time and time again that kitties in the weight room is a bad idea.

  • Two 5Ks (I think), this weekend. Preakness 5K tomorrow and Bob Potts, which I'm not actually pre-registered for, on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Presence of Evil, Volume IV

I had the best of intentions yesterday. I drove into Philadelphia yesterday morning for an all-day meeting at my company's headquarters. I packed a bag with running gear to go for what I'm sure would have been a beautiful run either along the Schuylkill River or Kelly Drive, or maybe a less scenic but no less fun excursion over to my old apartment building at 42nd & Pine, just to see if the place is still standing. It was, after all, when I lived in this apartment that I made my first attempt to incorporate running into my workout regimen (not counting basketball practices, when I didn't really have a choice).

My plan made perfect sense, too. Rather than fight rush hour traffic out of the city at 5:30, I'd run for an hour or an hour and a half, and cruise easily home.

But after a really long, productive day of meetings, I was really tired. And many of my colleagues live even farther from the home office than I do, and get in even less frequently than the 2-3 times a year I make the trip in. So, I invited myself out to dinner at the Continental instead of running.

I'd love to say I regretted it, but I'd be lying.

Cheesesteak Eggrolls. Go to the Continental Mid-town at 18th and Chestnut and order them. (Well, not right now since they're only on the dinner menu.) Trust me on this one.

(Sorry to put out two of these in a row, but what I'm eating is usually more interesting than where I'm running...if I'm running.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Presence of Evil, Volume III

I love a good breakfast sandwich. I also love waffles. I love maple, too. So, when Dunkin' Donuts invented a maple-sausage waffle sandwich last year, they unknowingly created a pipeline directly to my wallet.

Now, they've brought it back, except now -- as if it wasn't already ridiculous -- the waffles are now blueberry waffles.

I'll be honest, I wasn't sure about the blueberries. I'm a maple syrup fiend, so I usually just opt for plain pancakes or waffles and load 'em up with maple. Oh wait, chocolate chips are good, too. But anyway...I was a little worried about how blueberries would mix with the taste of the sausage, egg, and cheese.

I was worried for nothing...the taste of blueberry is subtle rather than overpowering, and the delicious aroma of the blueberry waffles is a definite positive.

Really, the only negative is that this sandwich is only available through June, which means I'm going to be at Dunkin' even more than usual during the next month and a half...and I'm already there way more than I should be.

Evil. Evil. Evil.

Monday, May 9, 2011

(Not So) Heavy Metal

I used to lift weights. I started my sophomore year in college. I can't remember exactly why, but peer pressure is probably a pretty good guess, since a few other guys on my hall had started working out that year. One of my friends and I started lifting at the same time, after some initial instruction by another one of the guys, who was an ex-football player (there was no football at my school, or else he probably would have been a current football player). The football player got us started with much-needed basic instructions and then after a week or two we "noobs" were mostly left on our own to go to the gym, where we would make fun of ourselves and others, try to pick up metal plates of varying sizes, and generally misuse a decent if unspectacular college gym for the next three years. I can still remember trying to drive the evening after the first time I lifted. I could barely move my arms to steer. It's funny to look back on, and I guess it was pretty funny at the time, too.

Along the way, my once mild-mannered friend turned into and sadistic taskmaster in the weight room. I always needed to do one more set, no matter how dead my arms were. Our goal was to leave the gym each time so tired we could barely move our arms. Of course, being college students, we would probably go back to the dorm and have beer, anyway, but I'd at least gotten started on something that I've mostly stuck with, albeit with varying degrees of success and commitment, since my first visit to the college gym in 1996.

After I graduated college and got ready to move to Philly for my first "real" job (that might be worth a blog post someday), one of my first purchases a weight bench and barbells at Play-it-Again Sports. I spent under $150, and it's largely served me well, though it was mostly used as a coat-rack or a dust collector from 2001 to mid-2004, when I'd had a gym membership (which got used less and less each year after an initial pre-wedding gotta-get-in-shape panic). When we moved to our current home in 2004, I set the weight bench back up and had done a decent job sticking with it...until January of this year, when I pretty abruptly stopped.

There. "I used to lift weights." I said it. I can no longer get away with the "I've slacked a little bit in my lifting" or "I've got to get back into the routine" type statements I've been using to reassure myself. Lifting had gotten less frequent in 2010, as I tried to on longer and longer runs, but I don't think I'd picked up a weight since the first week of January of this year. I'm sure I haven't since I hurt my knee at the end of January. That's not slacking off, it's not a slip-up in the routine. That's four months. That's stopping completely.

I started again this morning. I pretty drastically cut weight back in every set from what I'd been doing previously, but I got through it.

It's good to start again. I don't have specific goals for this, other than to just get back into a regular routine. I'm just trying to keep muscle tone, not "bulk up" or add weight that might actually hinder my running. And since it makes for very boring blogging, you probably won't hear about it again here until there's some sort of mishap, which there will be. And that feeling I told you about earlier, where I could barely drive because I couldn't move my arms? I think that's how I'm going to feel this afternoon. Ouch.

Creepy weightlifter guy...coming to a home gym near you! (not really)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rise of the Machines: Betrayed by Garmin

I've mentioned on this blog several times my frustrations stemming from the use of my Garmin GPS watch.

At last year's Broad Street Run, a ten mile race run in excessive heat, my Garmin Forerunner 201 recorded a distance of over 11 miles. I was on the verge of casting it into the Delaware, when a fellow Garmin owner reminded me that if I'd zig-zagged to hit a lot of water stops or fire hydrants, that it could add up to considerable extra running over a 10-mile race. Since I weaved back and forth to hit EVERY fire hydrant, this made sense, and Garmin was forgiven.

At the Shamrock Marathon, Garmin was showing about a third of mile ahead of the mile markers for most of the race, and then over the course of the last five miles its accuracy seemed to decrease at it showed about 26.75 miles at the end of the race. This seemed weird, and was increasingly frustrating as I died on the wall, but my inappropriate rage at Garmin was forgotten in my relief to have finished the ordeal of the marathon. It also seems to have a lot of trouble finding satellites when I'm away from York, PA, and it completely turned into a brick when I was out of the country.

Most of the time, though, Garmin seems to work ok. Most 5Ks show up as 3.1, and its measurements usually seem consistent when I've used it on courses that I'd previously mapped out on the USATF site, mapmyrun.com, or dailymile. It's helped have at least a pretty good idea of how far I'm running on courses that I haven't previously mapped out, and it's virtual training partner feature helped me break the 24-minute mark on a 5K and will hopefully help me pace myself to a PR in the Harrisburg Mile in July.

Today, however, Garmy let me down in a new and exciting way. After my 10-mile night run on Thursday night, I was trying for 10 again today. It was a pleasant morning, but with bright sun I felt very warm, and I had the "power outage" feeling in my legs that has plagued me on and off over the last several weeks. Even so, though, I ground out the miles and was coming up to the finish, when at about 9.8 miles, as I made the final turn toward my car, Garmin started subtracting mileage.

(I don't care what you say, Garmin. I ran 10 miles today.)

I will admit, I received the Forerunner 201 as a Christmas gift from my parents, and I requested one of the lower-priced models with the thought that my parents could then afford to get one as a gift for my wife, too. I chose the 201 because I liked how the display looked and I was certain that it had the Virtual Training Partner. In hindsight, I should have gone with the 205, which promised a high-sensitivity receiver at a similar price point at the time. Or, maybe I should have realized that it was the cheapest model for a reason.

I suppose I could have gone too far the other way; a friend has one of the newer touch-screen models, and not only does it seem like a PhD in astrophysics is required to use it, he's h had trouble in cold weather when a sleeve brushes up against the touch screen. Locking it makes it tough to see the screen he wants when he wants it.

I'm not terribly surprised to see that the Forerunner 201 is a discontinued model. I'll likely milk at least a couple more years out of Garmy, but I think that when I do need a new GPS watch, I'd be wise to pay less attention to the size of the screen and more attention to the sensitivity of the receiver.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creature of the Night

"Be careful," said my wife, Chris. "Don't do anything silly." What? Do you mean something silly like run 10 miles in an hour and 35 minutes through Manchester and Mt Wolf in the middle of the night with my goofy headlight and a bright yellow-green shirt so shiny it could wake the dead?

I've really enjoyed nighttime running lately, for a variety of reasons. First of all, I don't have to get up early. That's always a plus. Throughout the year I've not done as well at getting up to run before work in the morning. Earlier in the year, since I work from home, I could go for a run at lunch. Lately, we've finally gotten some very welcome warmer weather, but since my preferred running temperature is really 30-50 degrees, my best options are morning or the middle of the night.

But, in addition to the temperature, I enjoy the atmosphere of running at night -- the peace and quiet and the way the landscape is different from the day.

And lastly, I like the faux elite-ness it conveys upon me -- I may never qualify for Boston, but I'm the fastest one in Mt. Wolf in the middle of the night.

But I'll carry some holy water and a crucifix just in case...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where Would You Go? (If Your Budget didn't say "No".)

I use the running website dailymile.com, a social network for runners, to track my mileage, pace, and how many donuts I've earned thus far this year, which unfortunagtely so far exceeds significantly the number of delicious donuts I've eaten this year. "Donuts Consumed" is definitely something I'll start tracking next year.

I use dailymile for its data storage and analysis, but it tries to be fun, too. Both on its own site and on its facebook page, its admins post questions or challenges, which it calls "#dailymission" for its members. Some of them are fun. For example, last week it asked users to post their least flattering running photo (which in my case, is all of them). Others are a bit more serious -- asking for opinions on the new Boston qualifying standards.

Last week, dailymile posted a question that I thought was a fun one to consider.
What race would you most want to do, if you didn't have to worry about any logistics?
I thought this was an interesting question, but I needed to set the rules: "logistics" means budget, of course, as well as schedule, but also "ability level", meaning that in this thought experiment, it doesn't matter if I haven't met the qualifying standard for a race.

It was probably pretty obvious where I was going with that, and I admit that I've been getting a little bit of Boston envy. Hearing about other runners working so hard to make it to Boston, and the sense of accomplishment they feel when they qualify, it's a bit contagious. BUT, like I've said, I just don't think I have a Boston Qualifier in me. It's not that I think I can't do it -- but I think working that hard to shave well over an hour off my marathon time would turn something I've finally started to enjoy into something torturous.

A couple others that sound amazing:

The Reggae Marathon in Negril, Jamaica. Jamaica. How could it not be a blast?

The Great Wall Marathon. Wow. Nuts. Sounds really hilly, though. I've made my feelings about hills very clear.

Kona Marathon -- It's in Hawaii. That's awesome. I've never been to Hawaii. If I go there, do I really want to spend 5 hours running a marathon? (I guess you could say that about any of these.)

Athens Classic Marathon -- Supposedly the original marathon course. Every time someone runs a marathon they are, according to legend, following in the footsteps of Phidippedes, the Greek messenger who ran approximately 26 miles to bring news to Athens of the Greek victory at the battle of Marathon, and then died from the effort...reminding us that this really is a stupid idea.

All of these sound fun, and I'm sure there's hundreds more that would make for amazing adventures, just like there's thousands of places I'd like to visit if I didn't have to worry about money, vacation days, time, etc. But there's one race that stands out above the rest in my mind:

Awesome city with a thousand years of history and a great, Brian-friendly, climate for running. Not to mention there's a million pubs and they speak English better than I do. Unfortunately, not only is it on the wrong side of the Atlantic, but entrance is by lottery.

It's been fun to dream of faraway places, even though I there might be better things to do than run once I'm there, but of course time and money are huge constraints. That's ok; for now I'm pretty satisfied with the Philly Marathon in November and probably another shot at Shamrock next year.

But, if you didn't have to worry about logistics, where would you go?

(Attention work: On the off-chance you read this, please note that I wrote it last night.)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5K Schedule

I've been edging very close to being back in "I ran (X) miles in (Y:YY) in (insert borough name here) and felt great/bad/hot/awful" territory here, so instead of talking about how I ran 8 miles in 1:13 in Mt. Wolf and Manchester yesterday and felt gross, I'm going to take a moment to talk about the 5K schedule as it currently stands for the rest of the year.

One of my new year's resolutions was to run five 5Ks this year. In hindsight, that wasn't challenging enough, but I wasn't sure how the schedule would work out. In 2008, I think I ran 8. In 2009, I think I only ran two. Another resolution is to run an under-23-minute 5K. My current PR is 23:43. I hope to lower that mark during the year, whether or not I can come in under 23.

So far this year, I've got three 5K's in already:
1. Kelly Shamrock 5K -- Sunday March 13, Baltimore Md: 30:15 (One of our favorite races in Baltimore. I was tapering during it.)

2. Mud Chasers 3.5 -- Sunday April 17, Sparks Md: 38:00 (Yes, I think I'm going to count this. It's got to count for something.)

3. Northeastern High School Honor Bus Benefit 5K, Saturday April 23, Mt. Wolf PA: 24:29 (A fun new local race, and I'm really happy with my time.)

Next up:
The Preakness 5K on Saturday, May 14, in Baltimore Md. The course includes a lap around the famous horse-racing track. Hopefully no horses are on the track at the time. Since it's on a racetrack and around the grounds at Pimlico, hopefully this course is flat. I might be able to beat my PR, but if you're a betting man, don't look for me to win, place, or show.

Bob Potts 5K on Sunday, May 15, in York PA. Right after I ran Shamrock, I had designs on running on the Bob Potts Marathon. I was talked out of it by my training group coach. In hindsight, I think I could have run it. I would have had a few weeks of rest, but then have to quickly try to work my way back up to a 20 mile run, and then a short taper. At any rate, I'll probably run the 5K.

I've never done two races on back-to-back days, so this should be fun. I'll probably try to run one of them as fast as I can for PR and take the other one easy, but I'm not sure which is which. The Preakness should be flat, but it starts at 10:30 so it's got a better chance of being hot. Bob Potts is supposedly a flat, fast marathon, but I'm not familiar with the 5K course. Its starts at 8:00, so likely cooler temperatures at start, but it's also got the disadvantage of being the second out of two.

That's all I'm signed up for so far (well, I'm not even signed up for Potts, I was just going to sign up that morning), but I also plan on running the Spirit of Gettysburg, Fort McHenry Tunnel Run, and the Harrisburg Jingle Bell 5K again. I'm hoping I can break my PR before the last race of the season, but as long as I've recovered from the Philly Marathon, the Jingle Bell 5K, where it's almost guaranteed to be freezing and where I've set my two previous PRs, is my best chance to come in under 23.

In short, it should be a pretty busy 5K season, as there may be some more races I forgot or can add in there and of course the Philly Marathon in November and maybe a sprint duathlon in July. I've focused more on distance over the last three years, but lately I've rediscovered the fun of the shorter, faster-pace race and the challenge of getting to a new PR.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Branching Out

It's Sunday night, my least favorite time of the week. No amount of excellent TV ("The Simpsons" still comes through occasionally, "Family Guy" of course, and "Game of Thrones" and "The Borgias" are two newer favorites) can disguise the fact that the whole work week looms ahead. But this is my running blog, not my TV blog or my dislike of Sunday nights blog. I'll be sure to let you know when I start writing those.

I ran 8 miles in 1:10:10 yesterday morning, which I believe is among my fastest paces ever for that distance. If I hadn't forgotten to register for the Broad Street Run, which took place this morning, this means I probably could have easily have broken 1:30, which was my goal last year, when I wilted in the unseasonably hot morning. I started to say "when I decided to hold back", but I think it was more a matter of "couldn't go fast" than "decided not to").

But anyway...I'd planned on switching my route up a little, and taking Board Rd and Wago Rd down into Mt. Wolf, but road construction interfered with my plans. I took a different road into Mt. Wolf, but just had to run around the town to make up the miles that I would have gotten on Wago. It was nice, I found a new place to run that's very close to home and also has lots of cross streets to run on, and most of them have sidewalks.

Thus, last week's Honor Bus 5K, in addition to being a good race, introduced me to a new running locale, which I think will be helpful this spring and summer -- I'm getting sick of the neighborhood I've been running in, and I don't like to run down to Goldsboro in summer because if I get overheated I'm potentially 5 miles away from home or car or at night in any weather because the roads are so narrow.

The downside is, as the name "Mt. Wolf" implies, it's really hilly. If any York County runners read this, and you know a nice, mostly flat place for a long run, I'd love to know it. It's like Manchester is on top of one hill, Mt Wolf another, and York Haven another, so wherever I go, I have to climb and descend some steep hills. I know this is good, since almost no race will be this hilly, but I don't like putting my knee through it every single time.

At any rate, though, it was a nice run in a nice new locale, and I'm looking forward to getting some more good miles in this week.